Located in the south of the Flemish city, on Bolivarplaats, The New Law Courts was erected by Richard Rogers in conjunction with Belgian architects VK Studio. It houses 8 distinct civil and criminal courts, 36 courtrooms, offices, chambers for judges and lawyers, a library and cafeteria. Its most striking feature, the pointed roof structure with soaring spires, rise above a series of paraboloid roofs that cover the courtrooms and recycle rainwater.
With an east-west orientation, the spires were placed for catching as much sunshine as possible. They are glazed on one side and reflective on the other. From afar, they provide the area with a unique aesthetic reminiscent of ships’ sails or marine waves, matching the angled stones that divide the road from the leafy square.
All along the building external glazed louvres regulate and reduce solar gain. The central outdoors stairs bring people inside the courts building and also provide a shelter for people waiting for the tram. Made from treated wood and painted lime green on both sides, the stairs offer a calm space for contemplating nature and the modern Rogers’ building.
A natural light-filled public hall at the entrance links six radiating wings like the legs of a spider. For cooling down large hearing rooms, the architects used low velocity ventilation that mixes the air distribution in the room—instead of the more commonly used cross ventilation. The use of pre-cast concrete means a lower energy intake, as its thermal mass properties will absorb the heat from the surface, store it and release it steadily to the interiors.
Photo © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat